Thursday, August 25, 2016

"Whatever is lost will be found": The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson


"The past is a grenade that explodes when thrown."

The Gap of Time: A Cover Version of William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale by Jeanette Winterson was the first cover in the series by Hogarth Shakespeare. I previously read the Hogarth Shakespeare version of The Taming of the Shrew, Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, and you can read my review here. I have Hag Seed, the cover for The Tempest by Margaret Atwood, on my NetGalley shelf.

I admit the last time I read this Shakespeare play was in university. The course compared the early and last plays of three playrights; the Bard's The Winter's Tale and The Tempest were his last plays that we studied. The theme of the course was that the last works of the authors revisited early themes but with a comic or hopeful ending.

Winterson's novel places the story in modern London after the financial crisis which left the rich getting richer off of the misery of the rest of us. Leo Kaiser has wealth, a beautiful and talented wife MiMi, and a son Milo--plus MiMi is pregnant. Leo, like Othello, also is in a jealous rage, imagining that his old and close friend Xeno has been having an affair with MiMi; he believes that her baby is Xeno's. To complicate things, Leo and Xeno were sexual partners as teens and Xeno does love MiMi.

The early part of the novel is full of passion and rage. We learn about the youthful love shared between Leo and Xeno and how Leo 'accidently' nearly killed Xeno. We watch Leo rant and rave in jealous fits, spying on his wife. He tries to kill Xeno, driving him into 'exile'; then both loving and hating his wife, alienates MiMi and rejects their baby.

The baby, Perdita, is sent to her supposed father but a series of events brings her into the loving home of Shep and his son Clo, where she grows into a happy and beauiful girl. Age 17, Peridta is in love with Zel; they find themsleves on a journey of self-discovery that challanges everything they believed about their--and their parent's--identities.

I was uncomfortable with Leo's thought language of hate and his strange sexual arousal in the midst of jealous rage. At the same time I realize that the original plays by Shakespeare involve these extreme emotions and sick thinking. Leo and Xeno are damaged persons; "they had a life and they destroyed it. Their own and other people's."  Xeno fathers a child, 'a vanity project' his son labels it. Xeno retreats from the world in an alcoholic daze while creating a computer game, The Gap of Time, about the end of the world, where tragic and terrible things make possible sacrifice, struggle, and hope.

The teenage Perdita's story brings the novel scenes of family love, comedy and romance. In a game she says she would want Miranda from The Tempest as her dinner guest; later she assumes the name Miranda when meeting her father Leo for the first time. Winterson explains that in The Tempest, "Miranda...gets a father worth being born for."

At the end, the complicated realtionships are unraveled to the happiness of all.

The author plays with themes of time, 'The Fall' of man, angels, disguises, and shifting identities including sexual. The greatest threat comes from within ourselves. Time is reversible, she writes, time can be redeemed; that which is lost is found.

Winterson starts with a recap of  Shakespeare's play and wraps up with a commentary on the theme of the play: forgiveness.

For all my discomfort with Leo's actions, to the point that I considered not reading on, I finished the book in one evening's sitting and feel it growing on me. I may have to read it again.

I received a free book through Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair an unbiased review.

The Gap of Time
by Jeanette Winterson
Hogarth Shakespeare
Penguin Random House
$15 paperback
IBN: 978-0-8041-4137-6